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New Pga Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan Wants To Expand The Appeal Of Golf Beyond The Current Core Base Of Fans

New PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who succeeded the recently retired Tim Finchem, after 22+ years at the helm, was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal on January 3, 2017.

A key message that he communicated in the interview was a strong desire to expand the appeal and reach of golf beyond the traditional base of core participants, event spectators, and media fans. He indicated that he is open to and supports what would be some material changes to the PGA Tour event schedule, event formats, and exploring new media business partnerships:

“What are the ways that we can evolve to be relevant to broader audiences?” Monahan said. “Over the next year or two, you’ll see us be more aggressive in that area.”

Some of the key takeaway messages from the interview are:

  • The PGA Tour will work to reach bigger audiences in emerging golf markets like China.
  • Rearrange the PGA Tour schedule, such that there would be “big” events every month during the PGA Tour season:
  • The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass would move from May to March.
  • The PGA Championship would move from August to May, which would require the cooperation of the PGA of America. Historically, “The Season’s Final Major” would then become the second Major, between The Masters in April and the U.S. Open in June.
  • The FedEx Cup playoffs would begin in August and end on Labor Day Weekend, rather than late September. This would also avoid television coverage conflicts with the beginning of the NFL season.
  • Consider major changes to relationships with golf broadcast television networks:
  • Current contracts with golf broadcast networks CBS, NBC and The Golf Channel (owned by NBC Universal) run through 2021.
  • The PGA Tour can opt out of the contracts with CBS and NBC as soon as 2018.
  • The PGA Tour has explored creating its own cable network, much as the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB have done.
  • At the very least, the Tour may consider gaining partial ownership in a network, rather than simply selling broadcast rights.
  • Consider new PGA Tour event formats:
  • Already announced, the Zurich Classic in April in New Orleans will become a two-man team format in 2017.
  • Discussions are underway for a joint PGA Tour/LPGA Tour event.
  • Consider the possibility of a three-round, 54-hole event format, rather than the traditional four-round 72-hole format.
  • No changes are planned to the length of the PGA Tour season, which is now essentially year round. “I’m a believer that there never would be a true offseason in this game”, the Commissioner said.
  • He recognized that there are concerns over slow play on the Tour, where the slowest average time to play a round in a full field of 156 players is around 4 hours and 45 minutes, which has been essentially the same over the past decade. However, no specific plans are being made to address this, while recognizing that the players can always play faster.

It will be interesting to see how the PGA Tour evolves over the next few years to address these issues, what changes are actually implemented, and what impact their actions will have relative to achieving the goals of expanding interest in the sport. Stay tuned!

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